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  You are in: Home > History > The Intellectual Response to the First World War  

The Intellectual Response to the First World War
How the Conflict Impacted on Ideas, Methods and Fields of Enquiry

Edited by Sarah Posman, Cedric Van Dijck and Marysa Demoor

Sarah Posman is a postdoctoral researcher (FWO) at Ghent University. She has co-edited The Aesthetics of Matter (2013) and Gertrude Stein in Europe (2015).
Cedric Van Dijck is reading for a PhD in English at Ghent University.
Marysa Demoor, full Professor of English Literature at Ghent University, has published widely on nineteenth-century culture and journalism. Her current research focuses on the cross-fertilization between Belgium and Britain in the long nineteenth century.


The First World War changed the dynamics of the European intellectual landscape in terms of international collaboration, the development of disciplines and new institutional visions. The conflict not only destroyed much of Europe’s material cultural heritage, it also damaged the 19th-century humanist conception of the function of thought and problematized the position of the thinker in society. What is the intellectual’s task in a time of destruction and death? This book spotlights the ways in which the war redrew the map of knowledge production and changed traditional paradigms, fundamentally altering the approach to intellectual work. Thinking became more democratic and specialized, with a range of voices tackling specific problems created by the war, but now more conspicuously related to particular causes. The focus on the viewpoints of the 1914–1918 intellectual cadre throws into perspective the ways in which the war changed the contents, methods and organization of intellectual work.

Part One looks at the war as an object of study; Part Two explores the methodological challenges the war entailed; and Part Three sheds light on the ways in which the conflict and its aftermath redrew the map of collaborative intellectual networks. The case-studies come from different disciplines and cover a range of contexts, from German engineering to British wartime periodicals. Revisiting the early 20th-century intellectual situation not only enriches our understanding of the dynamics of the Great War, it also assists in repositioning the role of the intellectual in the 21st century.

Foreword by Stefan Goebel
Introduction: World War One and Intellectual Work        
Sarah Posman, Cedric Van Dijck and Marysa Demoor

1. Social Sciences and World War One: The Case of Germany
Hinnerk Bruhns

2. “In the long run the spirit will prevail.” The Political Activism of Dutch Hegelians for Peace and Intellectual Fraternity
Marjet Brolsma

3. Rudolf Eucken: Philosophicus Teutonicus (1913-1914)
Nicolas de Warren

4. Word Magic, Word Science, and the World War
Ken Hirschkop

5. “We have to realize that we are born into a landscape of ice and fire.” Ernst Jünger’s Intellectual Responses to the First World War, 1915-1932
Thomas Petraschka

6. Avant-garde Writers and Artists: Camouflaging Suffering and Death?
Annette Becker

7. Emotionalisation, Propaganda and Latent Europe: French and German Sociologists Debating the War
Gregor Fitzi

8. Between Science and the Nation: The Comité d’Études et Documents sur la Guerre, an Epistemological and Textual Analysis (1914-1916)
Giovanni Cristina

9. Making Loss Legible: Käthe Kollwitz and Jane Catulle-Mendès
Sophie De Schaepdrijver

10. Polyphonic War: Intellectuals and the Working Class in French War Fiction
Marianne Michaux

11. The Stench of Corpses: On the Poetic Coding of Smell in the Literature of the Great War (1914-1933)
Frank Krause

12. War on Scale: Models for the First World War Battlefront
Willem Bekers and Ronald De Meyer

13. Mobilizing Mathematics: Vito Volterra, the Bureau des Inventions and Franco-Italian Mathematical Networks
Antonin Durand

14. “We have been ruled by dilettantes up to now.” Senior Engineer Siegfried Hartmann and the Reichsbund Deutscher Technik
Christian Schmidt

15. “A new lease of life.” Art & Letters, War and the Work of Survival
Cedric Van Dijck

16. Karl Polanyi: From Wartime Epiphany to The Great Transformation
Gareth Dale

17. International Peace of Mind: The League of Nations, The International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation, and the War against War
Joseph Kochanek

18. The Great War and Modern Science: Lessons and Legacies
Roy MacLeod

The Editors and Contributors



Reviews to follow


Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
272 pp. / 234 x 156 mm
Release Date:
April 2017
  Illustrated:   No
Hardback Price:
£65.00 / 79.95

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